AUSD Takes on an Icon

If only it were astonishing that Ash Jones has “been removed from the substitute list” by the Alameda High School (AHS) principal. Having been in public education for more than 22 years, his removal is not astonishing.

His removal is consistent with the seemingly dauntless pursuit of mediocrity and the mollycoddling that appears to be the inadvertent goal of public education. It is astonishing, however, that someone would have the temerity to take on an Alameda legend, an icon, a stalwart, a warrior such as Ash Jones.

Many teachers start out as high school graduates, earn a baccalaureate and a teaching credential and then return to the high school setting, never having experienced the “real” world. As a veteran, Navy Seal, Buddhist and political activist, Ash seems to discern many pieces of life’s complex mosaic: he has something to pass on to students.

As Roy Batty says of his multifarious experiences in Bladerunner, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

So, too, will the experience and knowledge of Ash Jones, now that he is exiled from AHS. Students will be deprived of a wisdom that transcends the domain of ordinary high school academics. As stated, (“Teacher Suspects Removal for Protest,” March 29) the reasons for his “persona non grata” status are so “inconsequential” that Ash has “forgotten them.”

Will Alameda ever get the facts? Or will AUSD close ranks, circle the wagons, put the spin doctor to work and rev up the chaff dispenser? Ash pleads “nolo contendere” to having “joined the group of students who marched down to Washington Park to participate in a demonstration of support for those killed and against violence and guns.”

As a teacher at Encinal High School (EHS), equally qualified to march as Ash Jones, I, too, was invited — by the administration — to accompany EHS students in their march to Washington Park. Being a fair-weather activist, I declined the opportunity given three environmental factors: low temperatures, rain and wind. Admittedly, I was on active duty that day, and Ash was in the ready reserve: yet he was a highly qualified, credentialed, unpaid volunteer. 

Ash reports that the “students at AHS were told that if they walked out of school they would ‘get in trouble.’” So much for freedom of assembly and first amendment guarantees. Hopefully the AHS administration was bluffing the students, but according to reports, they were not blowing smoke when it came to Ash Jones; as he reports: he has been “banished. Permanently.”

Louis D. Brandeis, one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, once warned, “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.” And as John F. Kennedy once observed, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

Will the torch get passed at AHS if “Unreasoned authority on the part of school administrators, parents and others in positions of power” are allowed to intercept the torch as it is passed from the generation of Ash Jones to America’s future at AHS?

When do young people gain responsibility, maturity and a sense of civic duty? Like the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz? When they are handed a diploma? Or does the maturation process and the grooming of active citizenship begin in kindergarten?

Sadly, this chapter in the Alameda story reads like Billy Jack; it needs to be rewritten quickly before we confuse students as to what constitutes good citizenship.